Sunday, January 15, 2017

Tea Time Excerpt with Laura Childs

There is nothing better on a cold winter afternoon than cozying up with a great book and a hot cup of tea, so every Sunday this winter we are running book excerpts with a suggested tea. 

Today we have an excerpt from the latest from Laura Childs, Egg Drop Dead. Laura Childs is the New York Times bestselling author of the Tea Shop Mysteries, Scrapbook Mysteries, and Cackleberry Club Mysteries. In her previous life, she was CEO/Creative Director of her own marketing firm and authored several screenplays. She is married to a professor of Chinese art history, loves to travel, rides horses, enjoys fund raising for various non-profits, and has two Chinese Shar-Pei dogs.

I've selected Twinings Winter Spice to go with Laura's book. There's always a little spice when the Cackleberry Club is around, so I thought this would be the perfect match. 

Chapter 2

Ignoring the anxious cries and bellows of the cows, Suzanne dashed back through the barn and out into the sunlight. Skidding wildly in the gravel, she pawed open her car door and flung herself inside. Bam. Her door locks clicked down hard. Then she fumbled her key into the ignition, gripped her steering wheel, and cranked the engine hard until it whined in protest.

In full panic mode, her teeth chattering so hard she was afraid she’d pop a filling, Suzanne hesitated for a second and looked around. And saw . . . absolutely nothing. There were no other people, no other cars. So what was the best thing, the smartest thing, for her to do in a situation like this?
Her heart still hammering inside her chest, she squirmed wildly in the driver’s seat, trying to make sure a maniac wasn’t about to leap at her with a shrieking, clattering chain saw. When none showed up, Suzanne pulled her cell phone from her purse and dialed the Law Enforcement Center in Kindred.

Marilyn Grabowski, the 911 dispatcher, came on the line immediately. “Nine-one-one, what’s your emergency?”
“Get me Sheriff Doogie!” Suzanne hollered. “I need Sheriff Doogie right away!”

But Marilyn needed a little more information than that.
Still babbling with fear, Suzanne tried to explain the situation. “This is Suzanne Dietz. I’m out here at Mike Mullen’s place on Country Trail. And Mike’s been . . . well, I’m pretty sure that he’s been killed. Stabbed, I think. Murdered in cold blood!”

Marilyn, who’d honed her calming skills as a first-grade teacher years ago, knew exactly what to do.

“First things first,” Marilyn said. “You get out of there, Suzanne. Do you hear me? Your life could be in danger, too.”
Suzanne nodded wildly into the phone. “Yeah, yeah,” she said. “Sure.”

“I mean it, Suzanne. Drive back to the main road and wait there until someone shows up. I’m alerting Deputy Driscoll right now. Sending him directly out your way. It won’t be long. Five minutes at the most.”

“We need Sheriff Doogie, too,” Suzanne stuttered. “You gotta send Doogie.”

“I’m putting in a call to him,” Marilyn said. “But I know he’s just getting out of a county board meeting.”


“Get out of there now, Suzanne, and don’t take any chances. Help is on the way.”

Suzanne was just about to throw her car in gear when she decided to make another call. She had that particular number on speed dial, so she hit it and waited. Hung on tight.
Sam was on the line in a matter of seconds.

“I have a problem,” Suzanne said.

“Tell me.” Sam was used to calls without long preambles. He was a doctor, after all.

Suzanne stammered out pretty much what she’d told the dispatcher, and then Sam told her pretty much what the dispatcher had told her. Get out of there fast. Don’t take any chances. Wait for help to arrive.

Suzanne, being a self-confessed contrarian, hung up and thought about this for exactly thirty seconds. Then she did the complete opposite of what she’d been instructed. After a careful look around the farmyard (to be sure the fire-breathing maniac with the chainsaw still wasn’t coming after her), she switched off her engine. Then she kicked open the driver’s side door and stepped back out.

A bright golden sun still lasered down. A light breeze kicked up bits of dust and leaves and spun then toward a low pen where a trio of woolly sheep peeked out at her. Over near the farmhouse, a birdbath pattered. The scene looked normal enough. On the other hand . . .

Clenching her jaw, Suzanne studied the farmhouse and worried. Was Mike’s wife, Claudia, at home? Did she need help? Was somebody inside with her right now, holding a butcher knife to her throat?

Slowly, cautiously, as if she were picking her way across a bed of hot coals, Suzanne walked to the house. She climbed the three creaking stairs that led to the small back porch and stared at the screen door.

Now what? Well . . . maybe just pound on the door and see if Claudia’s in there.

Suzanne knocked on the door and waited. Nothing. She knocked again, a little harder this time, causing the door to rattle in its frame. It terrified her to think that Claudia might be lying on the kitchen floor, facedown in a pool of her own blood.

That single, horrifying thought compelled her to take action. She reached down, turned the doorknob, and gingerly pulled the door open a tentative couple of inches.

“Claudia,” Suzanne called out. “Are you in here?” She waited, hearing nothing but the pounding of her own heart and the rush of blood churning in her ears. She called out again. “Claudia?” Then, feeling a little bolder, said, “Anybody home?”

Opening the door wider, Suzanne gazed into the Mullen’s tidy little farm kitchen. She saw a silver coffeepot sitting on the Hotpoint range, a plate and coffee cup resting next to the sink. Nothing looked out of order. And yet . . .

Her curiosity amped to a frantic level, Suzanne was about to step inside the kitchen. Then she checked herself. No, don’t do this, she decided. Don’t risk it.

She backed away and closed the screen door soundlessly. Feeling nervous and edgy, she knew she’d completely overstepped her boundaries. This was so not a good idea, she admonished herself as she hurried back to her car. She should have followed Marilyn’s instructions—and Sam’s—right to the letter.

With one hand resting on the handle of her car door, Suzanne paused and looked around once more. Nothing felt out of place. And yet . . . everything had changed. Mike was dead. The cows were frantic. And she was standing here, gazing around as if it were any old stupid Tuesday on a sunny October morning.

No, Suzanne told herself, what she was really doing was looking around, studying the area, to see if there was some kind of clue or takeaway. After all, she’d been the first one to stumble upon the crime scene.

Correction, I’m actually not the first one. Those honors would go to Mike’s killer.

Beyond the dairy barn, a stand of trees was aflame in red, gold, and amber. The sky was a rich blue, that pure, unfiltered blue that materializes only on rare autumn days when the atmosphere throbs with electricity and it seems like you can peer all the way up to the very edge of outer space.
Suzanne knew she’d better drive herself out to the main road immediately. The sheriff and his deputies would be roaring in any second and . . . wait a minute. She blinked. What was that?

Her eyes had caught a brief hint of movement way off in the distance. What was it exactly? A tree branch swaying in the wind? She scanned the distance, trying to pull it all into tighter focus. No, it looked almost like someone’s head and shoulders. Was that a person standing way out there in the woods? No, now there wasn’t any movement at all, so it must be some kind of scarecrow.

Suzanne glanced away, already making up her mind that it was a scarecrow devised to scare off scavenging birds. Then she hesitated.

Wait a minute. A scarecrow in a cow pasture?

Something about that scenario didn’t quite compute. She looked down at her toes, frowned, and then glanced back up, deciding it might be worth her while to take a second, more careful look. But the figure had disappeared. It was gone, just like that. Poof.

Egg Drop Dead is a great read. Laura specializes in cozy mysteries that have the pace of a thriller (a thrillzy!) Her three series are:

The Tea Shop Mysteries - set in the historic district of Charleston and featuring Theodosia Browning, owner of the Indigo Tea Shop. Theodosia is a savvy entrepreneur, and pet mom to service dog Earl Grey. She’s also an intelligent, focused amateur sleuth who doesn’t rely on coincidences or inept police work to solve crimes. This charming series is highly atmospheric and rife with the history and mystery that is Charleston.

The Scrapbooking Mysteries – a slightly edgier series that take place in New Orleans. The main character, Carmela, owns Memory Mine scrapbooking shop in the French Quarter and is forever getting into trouble with her friend, Ava, who owns the Juju Voodoo shop. New Orleans’ spooky above-ground cemeteries, jazz clubs, bayous, and Mardi Gras madness make their presence known here!

The Cackleberry Club Mysteries - set in Kindred, a fictional town in the Midwest. In a rehabbed Spur station, Suzanne, Toni, and Petra, three semi-desperate, forty-plus women have launched the Cackleberry Club. Eggs are the morning specialty here and this cozy cafe even offers a book nook and yarn shop. Business is good but murder could lead to the cafe’s undoing! This series offers recipes, knitting, cake decorating, and a dash of spirituality.

The excerpt was provided by the publisher. The tea is all mine, mine, mine. 

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